Quite a few leaders I’m working with are facing some big challenges when it comes to retaining their key people. Restrictive budgets for rewards and pay rises. A sellers’ market where people are being offered large salary increases to move into roles that are above their level of expertise. A freeze on adding to headcount, meaning when people leave, the people who stay have to take on more work. It’s a cocktail of factors to challenge even the most talented leader.


There is no one technique that solves these challenges and no combination that is guaranteed to solve them either. But if you play the long game, there is a way that might work. As Simon Sinek says this is an infinite game, that has no ending and no set of rules. 


The best leaders, faced with all the above, play the game based around factors that go beyond monetary reward. The people that work for them know they are absolutely doing their best to support them. They are hustling to get some extra budget, some permission to shift the boundaries beyond set budgets or head count limits.


In terms of workload, they themselves and their senior team, step into to lend a hand with time, expertise and influence. They can talk to clients and partners at matched seniority levels and get expectations reset, giving their people breathing space.


They might devote time to sit down and talk, coach, mentor, train or share knowledge. Exposure to seniority is something many people crave and value but is rarely available. 


They can use a currency to reward and recognise that doesn’t cost anything: sincere gratitude, recognition and validation of work and effort.


And yes, they might even dip into their own pocket and pay for some rewards that a specific person might value: a meal out, a ticket to a concert, a pamper package. The thought put into the right gift might ay more about your care factor than any words. 


And above all leaders have to keep showing up with honesty, integrity and vulnerability. Leadership is a way of thinking and behaving. Play the long game. Tough times don’t last forever.